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Sustainable gardening tips to save time, money,
water and support our native wildlife Sixth edition

That’s why I’m digging

sustainable gardening
Message from the Lord Mayor
Sustainable gardening

Growing our Council’s citywide vision is to achieve

40% natural habitat cover by 2031. To
urban forest reach this target, Council has a number
Brisbane is a great of projects aimed at restoring forest and
place to live, work wildlife habitat across Brisbane to create
and play and we enjoy a legacy for future generations to enjoy.
a fantastic climate You can play an important role in keeping
and outdoor lifestyle. Brisbane clean, green and liveable
Communities, families and residents by using gardening methods that are
across the city are seeking to reconnect kind to our environment. Sustainable
with nature and gardening. That is why it gardening methods include mulching and
is one of my top priorities as Lord Mayor composting, planting appropriate plants
to continue to enhance our environment. in the right place and reducing the use of
Most of the green cover in Brisbane non-organic fertilisers and other chemicals
suburbs comes from everyone’s backyard. which can damage our waterways.
So every tree, shrub or native grass that Thank you for taking the time to read
you plant is helping to grow our urban this guide, I look forward to working with
forest. Trees and plants provide a home you to make our city an even better place
for Brisbane’s unique birds, animals and to live.
insects, give Brisbane its unique character
and provide shelter and shade to our city.

Graham Quirk

Sustainable green gardening

Sustainable gardening methods play a vital In fact, you can grow food in pots on a
role in reducing waste going to landfill, for balcony, on a sunny window sill or in
chemicals entering our creeks and streams, hanging baskets.
conserving water and providing food and This guide provides a wealth of sustainable
habitat for our native wildlife. gardening information to assist you,
Sustainable gardening can be achieved whether you are getting started or have
through thoughtful planning. Plants that an established garden. There’s everything
are well-suited to your garden and local from designing your garden, what to plant
conditions, will thrive and need less and when, how to care for and maintain
maintenance and watering. Careful choices your plants, and the many benefits of
of landscape elements will make your bringing biodiversity into your garden.
garden more attractive and provide food, There are tips and advice on balcony and
water and shelter to our unique wildlife. small space gardening, plant selection
Growing even a small amount of your own and care and managing pests. You’ll find
food can make a difference to your budget valuable local knowledge through the tips
and to the environment, and the good news and hints provided by Brisbane residents,
is that you don’t need to have a big garden. along with fun quotes, to help inspire you.

Sustainable gardening

Sustainable gardening 4

Garden design 9

Plants and planting 15

Bringing biodiversity into your urban garden 29

Garden care 35

Growing your own 53

More green information 60

Green Gardening Guide 3

Sustainable gardening
Sustainable gardening

Why we garden Have we lost the skill

Gardening is good for your health, of gardening?
wealth and happiness. It enriches Thirty years ago, many of us had a basic
our lives and the world in which we understanding of gardening principles.
live. People have been gardening As our lives became busier, much of the
indoors and outdoors for thousands desire and need to grow plants at home
of years and the enjoyment of diminished. The improvements in food
gardening is universal. production technology and modern
farming practices, that produce high
Creating and growing a beautiful and yields and cheaper imports, have made
functional garden gives us a great sense food cheaper and more plentiful.
of achievement. Each time we venture
into our garden we are reminded of our Communities across Australia look to
efforts because it is constantly evolving reconnect with nature, the outdoors
and changing. It is rewarding because the and fresh, healthy food, gardening is
act of growing plants is full of creativity experiencing a real resurgence.
and wonder. This guide aims to give you the tools
Gardening is good for your health and you need to convert your interest into a
provides an opportunity to be active. beautiful, thriving and sustainable garden
Being outside, enjoying Brisbane’s – whether you live in a house, townhouse
subtropical climate and diverse plant and or apartment.
animal life, is so rewarding. Each season
brings new opportunities to your garden.
The garden provides a place for families
to connect. Children can find it a place
of learning and wonderment. There is
nothing more exciting than watching
what you have planted grow and come
to life with flowers, fruit or vegetables.
Gardening teaches patience and
encourages responsibility and
By supplementing some of your family’s
food bill with organic home-grown
produce you may save many hundreds
of dollars over a year and improve
your health through better nutrition
and regular exercise.

Backyard gardening in the 1950s

What is sustainable Give yourself a tick if you…

Sustainable gardening
gardening? Have designed your garden to make
the most of cooling breezes and
Sustainable gardening means that it provide shade to protect your home
contributes to, rather than takes away from the hot summer sun.
from, the Earth. It uses fewer resources
Have created a layered garden of trees,
and inputs from elsewhere, recycles
shrubs, grasses and groundcovers to
resources and focuses on holistic
create a haven for birds, butterflies, frogs
outcomes. It seeks to conserve water,
and other native wildlife.
reduce waste going to landfill, decreases
chemicals ending up in our creeks and Use Australian native, locally-
streams, and provides food and habitat indigenous plants, rather than invasive
for our wildlife. exotic plants.

Because it is sustainable (meaning it Grow some of your own produce.

sustains itself), this gardening technique Make and use your own compost,
can require less work to maintain, making or use a worm farm.
it a more efficient, productive and less
Use mulch to keep the soil cool, moist
time-consuming activity in our already
and weed-free.
busy lives.
Have a rainwater tank.

Why we need to garden Use only organic fertilisers and sprays.

Brisbane’s urban forest –
Sustainability is a principle that influences
our decisions on how to maintain and how you are helping
enhance our quality of life, both now Did you know that the backyards of
and in the future. Council encourages Brisbane’s suburbs provide most of the
all residents to garden sustainably. green cover in the city? This contributes
Sustainable gardening starts with immensely to Brisbane’s urban forest.
thinking about exactly what we want Just try to imagine what Brisbane would
from our gardens and what smart look like without our trees and plants.
choices we need to make to achieve this. Every tree, shrub, native grass or
Whether we want our gardens to provide groundcover that you have or that you
colour, shade, flowers, food or privacy, plant is helping to grow Brisbane’s urban
the principles are the same. We can forest. This keeps our city green, clean,
achieve this with thoughtful planning, cool and more liveable for everyone to
protecting native vegetation, removing enjoy. For more information on Brisbane’s
environmental weeds, mulching and urban forest, visit
composting garden beds, using water
efficiently, planting appropriate plants
in the right place, using plants to help
cool our houses and reducing the use
of non-organic fertilisers and pesticides.

Green Gardening Guide 5

The carbon cycle
Sustainable gardening

Auto and
CO2 cycle

Photosynthesis respiration

Organic carbon

Decay respiration
Dead organisms
and waste products

Fossils and fossil fuels Uptake

What is carbon? This means that more carbon dioxide is

being expelled and less plant matter is
Carbon is a biological element found in available to absorb the gas.
all living things, soil, ocean and the air.
Carbon dioxide is a greenhouse gas
In nature there are continuous cycles
that traps heat in the atmosphere. Life on
of life and death, of which carbon is
a key element. Earth would cease to exist without this
gas keeping the planet warm. The rapid
Carbon is produced when plants absorb increase of carbon dioxide in the
carbon dioxide (CO2) and sunlight in their atmosphere causes the Earth to become
leaves and water from their roots. These
increasingly warmer, like a greenhouse.
plants are then eaten by animals. Carbon
is returned to the atmosphere as carbon While planting more trees is a good
dioxide when animals breathe and plants start, using less fossil fuels is also critically
respire, and then returned to the earth important. By making some behavioural
when they die and decompose. changes such as walking or cycling, using
public transport, driving your car less,
However, since the Industrial Revolution
began in the mid 1800s, the burning of using less electricity or buying green
fossil fuels (coal, gas and oil) and the high power, and growing or buying locally-
level of deforestation throughout the grown, seasonal produce, you can greatly
world has increased the amount of reduce your carbon footprint. This benefits
carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. the world in which we live and the Brisbane
we love, now and for future generations.
What can you do?  Environmental and sustainability grants

Sustainable gardening
help the community to undertake
Visit for environmental and sustainability
more information on reducing your initiatives and environmental
carbon footprint. restoration projects. These have
included the rehabilitation and
What is Council doing? release of native wildlife, support
for community gardens, energy
Council is continually working to efficiency projects, and projects to
protect our natural environment. improve our natural environment.
Many successful projects are delivered
 Sustainable living seminars and
because of the cooperation between
workshops are offered across Council’s
the Brisbane community and Council.
libraries. Facilitated by experienced
Here are some examples.
gardening experts, participants can
 Council owns and manages more learn about propagating a garden, how
than 2000 parks and natural areas. to grow specific plant types successfully
and sustainable practices to grow food
 The Bushland Preservation levy has
and maintain an organic backyard.
purchased more than 3000 hectares
of bushland and wetland since 1991.  Council’s Free Native Plants Program
offers Brisbane residents free native
 Through the Green Heart program,
plants to plant in their home gardens,
Council is helping residents, schools,
and schools, clubs and community
businesses and community groups
groups to plant on their grounds.
take practical steps to reduce their
environmental footprint and live  Community street tree planting events
more sustainably. are fun events where local residents are
involved in planting shade trees in their
 More than 2000 hectares of bushland
suburban streets.
is currently protected through the
Wildlife Conservation Partnerships
program and more than 100 hectares
of waterways and bushland each
year are rehabilitated by dedicated
Creek Catchment and Habitat
Brisbane groups.
 The Wipe Out Weeds program
prevents new environmental weeds
from establishing and treats existing
weeds in priority areas. As part
of the Brisbane invasive species
management plan, Council created
the online weed identification tool
to help residents identify and
remove pest weeds from their garden.
Visit to
use this tool.

Green Gardening Guide 7

Sustainable gardening

Garden design

Garden design
Everyone has their own style and your Designing your garden
garden shouldn’t be any different.
In this section you will find some hints Sustainable gardens stand the test of time
and tips about things to think of when and low maintenance means less work and
cost, and more time to enjoy. Whether
you are designing your garden.
starting from scratch or re-thinking an
Brisbane’s subtropical climate allows a existing layout, good design begins with
wide range of plants to grow successfully. asking the right questions. Impulsive and
Whether you live in a house, townhouse or unplanned buys are likely to cost you time
unit, your garden design can encourage a and money down the track. You may wish
smooth transition between your indoor to contact a landscape architect or garden
and outdoor living areas. This allows you, designer for professional guidance, or
your family and friends to take advantage you can use one of the many search tools
of Brisbane’s subtropical lifestyle and the available on the internet.
best of Brisbane’s climate all year round.
A great garden complements our GARDENING QUOTE
natural environment and our homes.
Getting the design only half right means My garden is my most beautiful
that soils can be washed away, spaces masterpiece. Claude Monet
are unused, plants die and creeks are in
danger of being polluted by chemical
Here are some simple things to think
runoff and sediment. A good design
about when designing your outdoor area.
starts with a plan.
 Which directions do breezes
come from?
 Does this area receive morning or
There are no gardening mistakes, afternoon sun? Hot afternoon sun
only experiments. will encourage you to plant a shade
Janet Kilburn Phillips tree or screening hedge.
 Is the area steep or flat? This will
influence how water flows and collects.
 What kind of soil do you have? Is it
sandy, clay, loam or a combination?
Your soil type will influence what
type of plants you can grow,
what soil improvement you may need
and dictate watering requirements.

Green Gardening Guide 9

 Consider planting a layered garden  Design for your lifestyle. For
Garden design

where your design features shady trees, example, choose plants that are low
flowering shrubs, groundcovers and maintenance, low cost, wildlife friendly,
hardy tufting plants. provide shade, colour and texture or
privacy and security.
 What do you want your garden to
achieve? Grow some food? Create a  Ensure your vegie garden/herb pots
are easily accessible to your kitchen.
fantastic floral display? Enhance your
privacy? Provide shade from the hot  Are you beside a major road? Well-
western sun? Encourage wildlife? …or selected screening plants beside
just make it that special place for you your fence will provide you with
and your family? added security.

 What do you want to do in your  Walk around local streets to see how
your neighbours have designed their
garden? Create play areas for children?
gardens and look at what plants
Keep a pet? Entertain friends?
work well in the area. Visit display
Relax and unwind? Swim in your pool?
villages to see how landscapers
 Does your budget allow you to make have incorporated design and plant
small or major changes? elements into the gardens.







TREES 1:200

Garden design plan after site analysis

 What might have worked in your Visit for more

Garden design
previous garden doesn’t necessarily information on sustainable garden
mean it will work in your new setting. design principles.
Be open and flexible with your plans.
Give yourself a tick if you…
 Consider how much time, energy and Have a planting plan that includes

money you can afford to give to your grouping plants according to their
garden initially and over the years ahead. water, sun and soil requirements.
Once you have completed your site Have chosen hardy, low-maintenance

analysis, prepare a garden design plants that suit the area, soil and
plan based on the opportunities and conditions.
constraints identified.
Have allocated a spot for your

compost bin to help you with your lawn
Garden design ideas clippings and prunings, or ordered a
 Create and use shade to reduce Council green waste bin.
air temperature, water waste and Have considered how water flows

evaporation. naturally and where it collects on your
 Provide interest all year by property.
incorporating a mix of species with Have designed your garden to take

large-leafed colourful foliage such as advantage of cooling summer breezes
crotons, cordylines and acalyphas, and planted accordingly in the sunny
and flowering trees such as golden and shady spots.
pendas, poincianas and frangipanis.
Use and enjoy your outdoor area

 Celebrate Brisbane’s native constantly and couldn’t imagine life
endemic plants for their beauty without it.
and habitat value.
Balcony gardens
GREEN TIP If you live in a unit or townhouse, your
outdoor living space, i.e. deck, verandah,
Medium-sized shade trees (up to patio, balcony or pergola is an integral
7m) planted on the western side part of your home. There are lots of ways
of a single-storey home can you can add plants and garden features
reduce summer cooling energy to bring your ‘outdoor room’ to life.
needs by 17%. Hanging baskets, large pots and clusters
of herbs, all combine to make your deck
or balcony a welcoming green space.
Remember to be a considerate

neighbour by placing saucers under
your pots to ensure there’s no run Use plants suitable to the climate
off to the balcony below. Let the and don’t overwater them – Pop Don
saucers dry out occasionally to
minimise mosquitoes.

Green Gardening Guide 11

Tips for balcony and small  If your balcony gets battered by strong
Garden design

wind, consider planting a windbreak by

space gardens growing climbers or shrubs on a trellis.
High-rise gardening can be an extra Compact screening plants such as
challenge because of more exposure to smaller lillypillies are a good option.
sun and wind, but you can still create a  Think about the logistics of carrying
thriving balcony garden. Some design pots, plants, mulch and potting mix to
tips include the following. the balcony if you live in a multistorey
 Check out how much sun your apartment. Planter boxes would be a
outdoor area receives and for how better choice than lots of small pots
long. Take note of wind strength. which tend to dry out quicker and
By considering these factors, you will blow over more easily.
be able to determine which plants  Consider the balcony balustrade of
are best suited for growing in your outdoor area. A balcony with
your garden. glass balustrades will conduct a
 Choose your garden type based considerable amount of reflective
on what you are trying to achieve. heat to your plants should this area
Would you like lots of colour, foliage, face the hot western summer sun.
texture, edible or statement plants? Choose your plants according to
these conditions. Decks that have
 Incorporate the design – consider the slat-style balcony balustrades will
view from inside before deciding on allow air movement around your
your design. Sometimes a large feature pots and plants.
plant, trellis or water feature as the
focal point is enough to draw the eye.  Consider fragrant plants so you can
Consider hanging baskets or vertical enjoy their scents inside and outside
growing plants to utilise small space. your home, but be mindful of your
neighbours as highly-scented plants
 Invest in a vertical garden. This is a can affect asthma or other allergies.
versatile way to make use of a blank
wall in a small space. Your plants grow  There are many pot options
naturally upwards, mimicking how specifically designed for use in small
they would grow in a ground garden areas such as balconies or courtyards.
bed. Many of the styles available in Plant towers and stackable containers
the market come as DIY kits, which are a great way to grow a variety
make home installation easy. This style of flowers, herbs and vegies. Many
of garden is perfect for herbs, vegies planters have wheels so you can move
and flowering plants and is removable, them around to suit the conditions
should you ever change address. and sun intensity.

 Weigh it up – pots are heavy when

they are full of soil, water and plants.

To ensure stability of your deck, always Container planting is great for small
ensure that you use lightweight pots spaces and for rental properties –
and regularly check wooden decking Megan
for signs of rot or termite damage.

Garden design
 If you are keen to put your own touch
on the planters, recycle other containers 
such as a colander, old teapots or metal
Get outside, plant something. And
watering cans for a nostalgic look or
enjoy life. You’ll be amazed what
repaint old worn pots in colours
grows – Conway
to match your mood and décor.
 You may be several storeys up but bugs
will still find your plants. Be aware that
you still need to keep these in check. GREEN TIP
There are many natural and organic
options available. During hot summer months you can
protect plant roots from burning by
 If your balcony spends most of the putting your potted plants inside
day in shade, go for shade-loving larger empty plastic pots (double
plants. If it faces the hot afternoon potting). This stops the roots and
sun, plants adapted for drier conditions soil being directly affected by heat
will do well. generated on the surface of the pot.
 Keep it simple and low maintenance
– if it is easy to care for, then it is
less likely to become cluttered and
neglected with too many plants, or
a storage area by default.

Green Gardening Guide 13

Plants and planting

Plants and planting

Plants and planting

Once you have your garden design Prepare the site for planting – dig

completed, it’s time to take a trip to to loosen up the soil and add some
your local plant nursery for advice on organic matter (compost). This will
selecting plants. This section provides help give your plants a great start.
some suggestions for you to follow. Lay out the pots before you plant. This

will give you a great indication of how
A thriving garden is a combination of
the finished garden will look and you
healthy soil, suitable plants, correct site
can adjust as you go before you plant.
preparation and ongoing maintenance.
Choose suitable plants – read all

about the right plants for your
GREEN TIP needs, visit public gardens and open
Always read the plant label carefully gardens, talk to your local nursery or
remembering that the information landscape expert and avoid weed
provided is a guide only. Plant species that will cause problems for
growth is determined by many you and your local area.
factors such as soil type, planting Keep in mind the mature height and

method (plant pot or in-ground), spread of trees including potential root
water availability, hours of sunlight growth when you plant.
exposure, fertiliser usage, climate
and season.
Getting to know your soil
Brisbane has many soil types. The most
A checklist before you plant widespread is shallow, gravelly red and
yellow loamy topsoil over clay. The other
Know the dry, moist, sunny and shady
main soil types are shallow gravelly soils,
areas of your garden or balcony. deep red loamy soils and dark alluvial soils.
Choose plants that will be suitable for
each of those areas. In many parts of Brisbane, urban
development has impacted and
Get to know your soil – is it clay, loam,
changed the landscape. Soils are often
sand, combination? Will you need to low in nutrients, compacted or poorly
add organic matter to improve the soil drained and may also contain hidden
and ensure a good start for your plants? contaminants, like lead paints that have
Consider the overall garden design –
permeated and tainted Brisbane soils.
what are your expectations? Gardeners need to be aware of their
soil and its history and choose plants
Design and create a layered garden.
and gardening practices to suit the
This will provide height and depth circumstances. Further information can
to your garden and will encourage be found on p57.
all sorts of critters that will help with
pest control.

Green Gardening Guide 15

How to test your soil texture
Plants and planting

Soil type Texture test Drainage test and result Suggested soil
result improvement
Sand Will not mould and Dig a hole and fill with 30 cm – Mix compost into top
Poor nutrient- feels very gritty. of water. Water is drained in 30 cm.
carrying capacity less than 1 hour = poor water – Add 75 mm organic
holding capacity. mulch layer on top.
Loam Can be moulded Dig a hole and fill with 30 cm – Maintain with ongoing
A rich soil but only into of water. Water is drained in mulching and compost
consisting of a shorter rolls and 2-5 hours = good balance of additions.
mixture of sand, feels slightly gritty drainage and water holding
clay and decaying and crumbly. capacity.
organic materials
Clay Can be moulded Dig a hole and fill with 30 cm – Add gypsum to
High into long, thin rolls of water. Water is drained in responsive clays.
nutrient-carrying and feels smooth more than 10 hours = poor – Cultivate soil (e.g. with
capacity but pliable. drainage. rotary hoe) to 30 cm.
– Add organic mulch to
surface layer only.

Plant nutrients at a glance GREEN TIP

Regular nutrition is essential to promote
To find out more about the type of
health and vitality. But, like us, too much
soil and what to plant in your area,
of one thing is not good and balance is
the key.
Plants require a mixture of primary
macronutrients, secondary macronutrients Secondary macronutrients are essential
and trace elements for optimum growth for healthy plants, but are required in
and health. But what are these? much smaller amounts.

Primary macronutrients are the main Calcium (Ca) helps build strong cell walls
source of elements required for sustained and roots.
and healthy plants. Magnesium (Mg) is important for
Nitrogen (N) is important to plants as photosynthesis and keeping your
this helps produce chlorophyll (for green plants green.
leaves) and build amino acids. Sulphur (S) helps produce plant proteins
Phosphorus (P) is the most widely used and chlorophyll and is responsible for some
of the main elements as it promotes of the flavours that our vegetables have.
growth in plants and their root systems, Trace elements (chemical compounds
and helps with flowering, fruiting and that are essential for all living things to
seed development. function properly. They are required in
Potassium (K) assists plants to produce minute amounts.)
chlorophyll by making cells stronger. This Iron (Fe) is good for growth.
helps plants fend off disease and pests,
and maintain water levels within the cells. Manganese (Mn) is important for the
formation of plant proteins.
Boron (B) assists with cell formation for
shoots, flowers, roots and fruit.

Suitable plants

Plants and planting

Not all potting mixes are the same. The best plants for your garden are
Buy the best quality potting mix those that are suited to your local soil
that you can afford. Look for those and climate, thrive on available moisture,
that display the Australian Standard suffer from few pests or diseases, and
certification ticks. This way you’re that provide food for you or food and
ensuring that your money is being habitat for wildlife. In addition, plants with
well spent on a quality product. Poor attractive foliage or flowers provide our
quality potting mixes contain less gardens with a vivid display at key periods
beneficial organic matter, will have during the year.
poor water holding capability and
will require the addition of fertilisers Give yourself a tick if you…
and compost.
Have found out what type of soil

you have.
Copper (Cu) is important for carbohydrate
and protein metabolism. Have done some research on plants

that are suitable for both the site and
Zinc (Zn) assists with growth and conditions.
development of roots and tips.
Have taken the time to see what grows

Right plant, right place, well around your neighbourhood.

right reason. Why? Have checked Council’s online

weed identification tool guide at
This statement says it all. Before you plant,
take the time to do some research on the to ensure you don’t accidentally
plant and species, and where in the garden purchase any invasive plant species.
you want it to grow. This will save you time
and money in the long run.
It is important to remember that you
make the decision on where to put your Someone's sitting in the shade today
plant, the plant itself has no choice in the because someone planted a tree a
matter. What it does after it is planted is long time ago. Les Brown
determined by many factors and many are
again influenced by your initial decision.
A poorly-chosen spot in the garden at GREEN TIP
planting time can either create a sickly
specimen or a plant that grows out of Dial before you dig. Call 1100
to check you’re not planting over
control and does not meet your needs
plumbing, sewer pipes, service
or objectives.
or power lines, or phone Council
on 3403 8888.

The following tables show some
Different plants need different suggestions to create a layered and
amounts of food and water – Izabel habitat-friendly garden.
(aged 10)

Green Gardening Guide 17

18 Plants and planting

Groundcovers, grasses and vines

Groundcovers planted on slopes can prevent soil being washed away in heavy rain. Vines provide shade when grown over pergolas and
privacy when grown over fences. They can also shade and soften balcony walls. Check with your neighbours and body corporate first.

1 2 3 4 5

Botanical name Features Growing preferences Wildlife promoting
1 Brachyscome spp. Forest daisies Small compact plants, daisy-like white, blue or Prefers moist soils with good Butterflies, lizards
mauve flowers. drainage, full sun.

2 Dianella spp. Flax lillies Strappy groundcover; beautiful blue flowers on Full sun to shade; well-drained Lizards, birds,
long spike in spring and summer, followed by soils preferred. butterflies
blue berries.

3 Viola banksii Native violet Pretty creeping groundcover for borders and Shade and semi-shade; grows in Butterflies
rockeries; tiny violet flowers mainly in spring and most soils; prefers some moisture.
summer; usually sold as Viola hereacea.

4 Doodia aspera Rasp fern Excellent low, mat-forming fern to 30-40 cm Shade and semi-shade; tolerates
high; attractive pink flush on new fronds. dry conditions.

5 Pandorea Bower of Popular light native climber; showy pink flowers Full sun and semi-shade; moist Birds
jasminoides beauty with a red throat; white forms also available. soils.
Low shrubs – 1-2 metres
Low shrubs provide welcome hiding places for skinks and blue-tongue lizards. Flowering varieties attract birds and butterflies. Because
they’re small, these shrubs suit any size garden and many are happy living in a pot on a balcony or patio.

6 † 7 8 9 10

Botanical name Common Features Growing preferences Wildlife promoting

6 Austromyrtus Midyim berry Up to 1 m; can be grown in tubs and rockeries; Full sun and semi-shade; sandy Birds
dulcis white flowers in summer. soils preferred.

7 Westringia fruticosa Coastal Silver-grey foliage and showy white-mauve Full sun to part shade; prune to Insects
rosemary flowers; hardy; coast-tolerant plant. shape if desired.
Green Gardening Guide

8 Melaleuca Claret tops Low, fine-leaved hedging species; 1-1.5 m Full sun; grows in most soils; Birds, possums
linarifolia ‘Claret topped by reddish new growth. tolerates wetter sites.

9 Syzygium australe Aussie Dense light-green foliaged shrub to 2 m; ideal Full sun and semi-shade; grows in Birds, possums
‘Aussie Boomer’ boomer for sites where a medium screen height is most soils.

10 Zingiber spectablis Beehive Tropical herbaceous plant to 2 m producing Part shade; well-drained rich soils. Frogs
ginger large leaves and very attractive long-lasting
flowers shaped like a beehive.

Plants and planting

20 Plants and planting

Medium shrubs – 2-5 metres

Medium shrubs create the backbone of garden design. Many provide good screens for your garden or courtyard.

11 12 13 14 15

Botanical name Common Features Growing preferences Wildlife promoting

11 Banksia spinulosa Golden Spiky foliage and showy golden flower spikes; Very hardy shrub; prefers well- Birds, gliders
candlesticks favourite of nectar-eating birds and gliders. drained soils in full sun or part

12 Callistemon spp Bottlebrushes Popular native shrubs with showy bottlebrush Full sun; hardy in most situations. Birds, micro-bats,
flowers in many colours; often flower over possums
extended periods; many species and cultivars.

13 Pavetta Butterfly bush Open, glossy-leaved shrub to 3 m; rounded Full sun and shade; well-drained Butterflies
australiensis heads of white, perfumed flowers in spring; soils.
useful edge species in rainforest plantings.

14 Brunfelsia australis Yesterday, Sweetly-scented and colourful flowering shrub; Sun and semi-shade; well-drained
today and mauve to white flowers; hardy; available in a soils.
tomorrow range of forms and heights.

15 Codiaeum Croton Striking foliage plant; many cultivars available Full sun and semi-shade, well-
variegatum offering splashes and spots of colour in red, drained soils.
purple, green and yellow.
Small trees – 5-8 metres
Smaller trees are suitable for many suburban blocks and add height to your garden. They also provide shade for your home and
protection for shade-loving plants.

16 17 18 19 20

Botanical name Common Features Growing preferences Wildlife promoting

16 Cupaniopsis Tuckeroo Excellent medium shade tree; glossy foliage and Suited to a wide range of soil Birds, butterflies
anacardioides orange fruits; hardy. conditions; full sun to part shade.

17 Atractocarpus Brown Glossy, dense, large-leaved native species; Full sun to shade; moist well- Birds
fitzalanii gardenia scented flowers; reach 6-7 m when grown in drained soils.
the garden.
Green Gardening Guide

18 Plumeria rubra Frangipani Small dome-shaped deciduous tree with brittle, Full sun; hardy in a range of soils.
stubby branches; clusters of fragrant white, pink
or red flowers cover the tree in summer.

19 Xanthostemon Golden penda Small to medium rounded tree growing to Full sun; well-drained soils. Birds
chrysanthus 6-8 m; glossy, dark-green leaves; large golden
blooms cover the tree in autumn.

20 Buckinghamia Ivory curl Dense-foliaged tree to 8 m, covered in masses Full sun; moist well-drained soils. Possums, birds,
celsissima flower of cream, scented flowers in summer. butterflies

Plants and planting

22 Plants and planting

Tall trees – over 8 metres

Tall trees have real wildlife value, providing animals with food and nesting sites. While some may not fit into an average suburban garden,
many are iconic Brisbane trees that can be seen in your local streets and parks.

21 22 23 24 25

Botanical name Common Features Growing preferences Wildlife promoting

21 Araucaria Hoop pine Majestic native pine; an iconic species of Brisbane. Adaptable to most soils; hardy; Birds, possums
cunninghamii salt spray tolerant.

22 Delonix regia Poinciana Popular ornamental flowering tree common in Full sun; well-drained and Birds
older Brisbane suburbs; thick stout trunk often composted soils.
buttressed; dome-shaped canopy is covered in red
flowers in summer.

23 Brachychiton Flame tree Medium to tall tree reaching 10-12 m; brilliant red Full sun; deep well-drained Birds, butterflies
acerifolius flowers in summer following spring leaf drop; large soils.
glossy leaves.

24 Waterhousea Weeping Fast-growing, medium sized tree reaching up to Full sun and semi-shade; moist Birds
floribunda lillypilly 10 m; cream fluffy flowers in summer; dense weeping well-drained soils.
habit and dark-green foliage; also great screen.

25 Stenocarpus Wheel of fire Reaching up to 10 m with glossy dark-green leaves; Full sun to part shade; well- Birds
sinuatus 7 cm diameter orange-red flowers in early summer. drained soils.
When to plant and why

Plants and planting

It is a good idea to plant during spring
Encourage wildlife into your
and autumn. At this time of year, plants
backyard by planting native trees
have a better chance of establishing
and shrubs. Provide nesting boxes
themselves before the heat of summer
or hollow logs for birds and
and the dry cold of winter. Giving your
mammals, or install a bird bath or
plant a good start in life will ensure it
pond. Ensure that dogs and cats
remains healthy and productive whether
are secure especially at night when
it is a seasonal vegetable or a flowering
many native animals are active.
or fruiting tree or shrub.
The best way to manage your garden
is to have a planting calendar. In the
calendar you can note what to plant
 Don’t feed wildlife as they and when to fertilise and what other
can become reliant on your garden maintenance might be required.
generosity and lose the instinct Doing little chores regularly makes
to fend for themselves. maintaining your garden easier.
 An unnatural diet can also lead
to health issues and nutritional GREEN TIP
There are many planting calendars
 Excessive amounts of uneaten available. Check out the simple
food can also attract pest animals one on the inside back cover of
and rodents. this guide.
 For more information visit
What to consider when
 Read plant labels carefully as they
Many of our native plants produce
provide specific information on growth
edible fruits. However, it is
and care requirements.
important to be cautious when
choosing to eat unknown fruit or  Avoid importing topsoil for your
berries from any native plant. Some garden. It’s expensive, environmentally
berries, fruit, flowers and leaves can unsound and may harbour garden
also be toxic to your pets. nasties like declared weeds or fire ants.
Instead, use organic compost and
mulch to improve the existing soil.
 Apply at least 75 mm of mulch to
garden beds and keep it away from
plant stems to prevent collar rot.

Green Gardening Guide 23

Plants and planting

 Brisbane’s climate is great for growing

food plants and fresh, home-grown,
Companion planting
organic fruit and vegetables. If space is When we think of companion planting
limited consider tubs, pots or stackable we generally think of planting for pest
planters as a great alternative. management. However, the idea also
includes other plant partnership
 Careful positioning of tall, shady trees
aspects that you can use in your garden.
can cool your house in summer but
An example includes planting shade-
always plant powerline-friendly trees.
loving plants among your taller trees
If you are unsure what to plant, contact
and shrubs. The taller vegetation will
your local plant nursery or Energex’s
provide the shade and leaf mulch and
'Safetree plants' website at
the low-growing plants will keep the
ground cool and damp. This encourages
 If you live in, or next to, bushland good garden health and ongoing
be proactive about fire management. benefits to plants and wildlife.
Place garden beds and trees away
Companion plants will not stop all
from the house, regularly clean gutters
unwanted bugs from feasting on your
and remove vegetation overhanging
plants but they may help to keep away
your roof. For more information
some insects and chewing critters.
about protecting your property visit
Just remember that one marigold isn’t or call
going to fend off all invaders and you
Council on (07) 3403 8888.
may need to step in from time-to-time.

While it is not an exact science, the
Some tips about planting trees

Plants and planting

concept of growing other plants among
your shrubs, fruit and vegies has merit.  It’s all about choice and placement.
Sometimes it comes down to choosing Plant larger trees around the perimeter
plants that perform well together. For and smaller-growing shrubs closer to
example, many plants give off smells your home.
from their leaves and roots and others  Establish new trees correctly.
will attract pollinating insects. Deep watering will encourage roots
to grow down further and anchor
Shade and feature trees the tree.

Shade and feature trees can make a  Be mindful of the critical root zone
dramatic statement in your garden. size of mature trees to ensure
To keep your tree the focal point of long-term health and safety (see
your garden it is important to take the maintenance section on page 46).
time to choose the species best suited  Planting trees together will provide
to your needs and the environment. a buffer and by planting small shrubs
among the trees, any wind will be
Trees should be seen as an asset to
driven upwards, thus taking any
your home and caring for them is not as
constant whip pressure off the trunk.
hard as you might think. Having them
regularly inspected by a qualified arborist Great examples of shade and feature
before storm season will ensure your tree trees for Brisbane suburbs include:
continues to provide you and your family  blueberry ash (Elaeocarpus ‘Prima Donna’)
with many years of benefits and pleasure.
 aniseed myrtle (Backhousia anisata)
 lemon aspen (Acronychia acidula)
GREEN TIP  native gardenia (Atractocarpus fitzlanii)
To help you manage trees on the  frangipani (Plumeria rubra)
footpath or in a road reserve in front
 golden penda (Xanthostemon chrysanthus)
of your property, Council provides
permits for minor street tree  tuckeroo (Cupaniopsis anacardioides)
pruning work. To apply for a permit  ivory curl tree (Buckinghamia cellisima)
for minor street tree pruning or to
 lemon scented myrtle (Backhousia
request street tree maintenance
or planting, please phone Council
on (07) 3403 8888 or visit  flame tree (Brachychiton acerifolius). Council’s website lists other native
plants that are great for Brisbane
conditions including groundcovers,
climbers, tufting plants, grasses,
and shrubs. Visit
to see the list.

Green Gardening Guide 25

Give yourself a tick if you…
Existing tree roots
Plants and planting

Have taken the time to research a

If you are planning to build a new home
tree and decided on the best planting
and your block of land already has mature
location and season.
trees, you need to decide before you
Have designed your garden to best
build whether or not any of those trees
suit your needs, e.g. shade from the may pose a problem in the years ahead.
western sun. Disruption to tree roots during building of
your home or changing natural drainage
Have located and contacted a
patterns can make existing trees unstable
qualified arborist in your area to have and often the effects of these changes
your trees inspected. won’t appear for several years.
The following table is a guide when Always have trees inspected by a qualified
planting new trees or undertaking arborist prior to the development of your
construction in your backyard. An arborist home. You will need to check with Council
can plan a root management scheme that on any protection your trees may have.
might involve regular pruning of small For information on the Natural Assets
surface roots next to a structure before Local Law (NALL), which protects
they grow big enough to cause damage. natural assets including trees, visit and search
Distance from
Tree at for 'NALL'.
mature height
services Now that you are ready to plant, here’s
Up to 5 m minimum 1 m a guide on how to successfully establish
5-10 m minimum 3 m your plant.

10-20 m minimum 5 m
>20 m minimum 10 m

A city without trees isn’t fit for a dog.

Avoid planting large trees near
sewer pipes. Help keep tree roots
out of the sewer system by ensuring
pipes on your property are well
maintained and properly repaired.
Remember faulty pipes encourage
tree root problems.

Correct planting technique 8. Mulch a zone of at least half a metre

Plants and planting

and 75 mm thick will help to retain
1. Dig a hole at least twice as wide and moisture and discourage weed
slightly deeper than the pot size. growth. To prevent collar rot, avoid
placing mulch against the stem of
2. Loosen the soil at the sides of the
the plant.
planting hole. Fill the hole with water
and allow to drain away. 9. Fertilise with composted animal
manure, grass clipping or leaf litter
3. Add some soil wetting agent to the
to provide adequate nutrients.
hole and mix through half of the
Don’t put fertilisers/manures at
backfill soil. This will help to retain
the bottom of the hole as this will
moisture in the soil for longer and
burn the plants' roots. Mix the
reduce watering requirements.
fertiliser with mulch or apply on the
4. Gently remove the plant from the surface. Avoid using commercial
pot and place it in the hole with fertilisers during dry conditions as
the top of its root ball level with the they require lots of water and may
surrounding ground. Backfill the damage your plants if incorrectly
remaining soil. used. Use strictly in accordance with
manufacturer’s specifications.
5. Press the backfill down with your
hands and make a saucer-shaped 10. To encourage bushier growth, prune
depression around the plant to broken branches or suckers from
hold water. new plants.
6. Water the plant thoroughly
after planting.
7. Water the plant once a week
for the first two months using
no more than twice the volume
of the original pot. Thereafter,
water when the soil feels dry, 6
watering until soaked but not 10 7


1 2

Green Gardening Guide 27

Superb fairy-wren
Bringing biodiversity

Bringing biodiversity into your urban garden

into your urban garden
Sharing your garden To increase the biodiversity of your
backyard and enhance its attractiveness
with wildlife to wildlife, include landscape elements
The Brisbane of today is a very that provide water, food and shelter.
different place from how the first Simple things like planting local native
European settlers saw it more than plants (including those that produce
150 years ago. Development, population, nectar and seeds and provide nesting
and infrastructure have changed the materials), providing a bird bath or frog
landscape and impacted our wildlife pond as a water supply and carefully
population and their natural habitat. placing rocks and logs around your
garden will help bring your garden to life.

Creating a welcoming
habitat garden 
A good habitat garden encourages a Put in a water pond to attract frogs
wide variety of wildlife, some as residents to keep insects down – Tom
and some as visitors. Unfortunately,
many of our urban gardens do not offer
wildlife enough food, water or shelter.
By making some easy changes to your
garden you can encourage wildlife such
as birds, butterflies, insects, possums,
lizards and frogs.

Plant native plants in your garden,
they will attract birds and insects –
Common jezebel
Alice (aged 10)

Green Gardening Guide 29

Benefits of habitat gardening
Bringing biodiversity into your urban garden

The presence of native animals in your
Do not remove logs, rocks or pebbles
garden brings many benefits, providing
from a natural area as you will deprive
colour, sound, life and, in many cases, pest
animals living in that area of their
control. Birds, frogs and lizards are some of
homes and food sources. You could
the species that should be welcomed into
also unknowingly spread unwanted
your garden.
weeds or pests.
Blue-tongue lizards, water dragons and
skinks are great companions for your
garden. They love snails, slugs and other
slippery pests and will happily keep
these under control at no cost to you.
To encourage them into your garden,
ensure there is plenty of leaf litter or
mulch and plant some groundcover
plants like brachyscomb or native grasses
such as kangaroo grass or dianella.
Including rocks or logs in your garden
will give lizards places to shelter and
hide from birds and domestic pets.
Sugar glider

Below are some things to consider when
creating your habitat garden. Avoid using snail baits if you want
blue-tongue lizards in your garden.
 Use local plants sourced from a
If a blue-tongue eats a snail that
reputable nursery.
has been poisoned by bait,
 Create a layered garden by the lizard will also die from
planting trees, shrubs, grasses and secondary poisoning.
groundcovers of varying heights.
This will create a multistorey home
for wildlife. The more levels you have, Birds also play an important role in the
the more biodiversity your garden garden. They bring song, colour and life
will support. and are efficient bug catchers. It’s always
best to plant food plants for birds like
 Plant a variety of flowering plants that grevillea, hakea, bottlebrush, lillypilly and
bloom at different times of the year. banksia to allow them to eat a natural
This will keep birds, butterflies and diet. To give smaller birds, like wrens
bees fed and busy all year. and willy wagtails, shelter and protection,
 Be a responsible pet owner – keep plant thick bushy shrubs like westringia
your pets inside, especially at night. or callistemons in your garden.

 Reduce or stop using pesticides and For more information on how to

poisons in your garden as these can attract birds to your garden visit:
unintentionally harm or kill native

Interference from humans can throw Some good websites to help you plan

Bringing biodiversity into your urban garden

out a bird's nutritional balance and may your frog pond include:
mean they will become reliant on your
handouts. This can lead to aggressive
behaviour and increase the spread of
disease from unclean feeding stations. australian-frogs
An overabundance of uneaten seeds can
attract rodents, and seeds may become
toxic to your feathered visitors. Also
avoid feeding birds bread, as this can
lead to malnutrition, or blockages in their
digestive tracts which may lead to illness
or early death.

Green Tree frog

Plant lots of trees which encourage
birds. The trees and birds bring To deter cane toads from your frog
life, colour, movement, interest and pond use a raised pond or , if your
great joy – Helen pond is at ground level, densely plant
clumping natives such as lomandras
and dianellas sedges continuously
Encouraging frogs is another fantastic around the perimeter – Anna
way to bring biodiversity to your garden.
Creating a frog pond will encourage
native frogs to visit and will provide a
great place for them to live and breed.
Wildlife water pond
Before you build your frog pond take
A well-constructed wildlife pond is
the time to research what is required
a beautiful addition to your garden.
for a successful project, as you want
By including a range of native plants
to attract frogs and not cane toads.
around the pond, you will provide
It is also important to remember your
food, water and an attractive haven
neighbours and be mindful of where
for many diverse animals.
you place the pond.

Green Gardening Guide 31

Encouraging beneficial bugs
Bringing biodiversity into your urban garden

to your garden
All too often, any bug that walks, flies,
hops or crawls will meet an untimely
death in your garden as it might
chew or destroy your favourite plants.
They generally meet their death by
asphyxiation from bug spray or get
squished under your shoes.
However, not all bugs are going to view
your plants as an all-day buffet. Many
bugs can be beneficial to your garden
and can be great indicators of the health
of the local environment.
Some good bugs to invite into your
garden are centipedes, beetles, bees,
butterflies, lacewings, ladybirds and
garden spiders. These creepy crawlies
enjoy dining on garden pests such aphids,
mites, mealy bugs, small caterpillars and
flying insects like flies and moths.
Rainbow lorikeet
You can encourage beneficial bugs
into your garden by providing plants
such as geraniums, daisy-like flowers
(brachyscome, sunflowers, asters),
WILDLIFE TIP coriander, parsley and many of our
Did you know that it takes more native flowers. They will also help to
than 100 years for suitable nesting pollinate your plants. The first step is
hollows to develop in mature native put away the insecticides, pesticides
trees? Many Australian birds, bats and other chemicals which harm or kill
and mammals rely on these hollows beneficial bugs.
for safety and security and as a place For more information about attracting
to raise their young. Unfortunately, beneficial bugs to your garden visit:
nesting hollows are becoming
rarer as mature trees are lost to
development. You can do your bit at beneficial-bugs/
home by building a nesting box. The
design of the box will depend on the
species but there are many design
options available online. Many
produce stores or nest box suppliers
carry assembled nest boxes and
can provide you with instructions on
correct installation.

Invasive pest animals They are opportunistic hunters and will

Bringing biodiversity into your urban garden

prey on your backyard chickens, eat any
While we’d like to encourage native leftover pet food and steal from unsecured
animals into our backyards, there is the rubbish bins. Foxes are also a potential
potential for unwanted pests like foxes, carrier of disease such as the rabies virus.
wild dogs, cane toads and feral cats to
There are some bird species that residents
be attracted to our very inviting urban
probably regard as pests, but which are an
environment. They are very adaptable to
important part of our natural environment.
new surroundings and will seek out food,
These include brush turkeys, ibis, magpies,
water and shelter where they can.
sulphur-crested cockatoos and crows.
Each night, make sure you remove food Unfortunately for these birds, the loss of
and water from pet bowls as leftovers their native habitat has forced them to
will attract foxes, rodents, cane toads move into suburbia. To ensure our health
and feral or stray cats and dogs. These and safety, and that of our wildlife, it is best
animals can pass on diseases to your pets, to minimise direct contact or conflict with
so by removing the food source they are these species.
less likely to visit your home.
While some of their behaviours are
The common myna is an introduced seasonal (e.g. brush turkey’s mound
bird species that is considered to be building and magpie swooping in early
the equivalent of a backyard bully. spring), others are learned. Not securing
They are very aggressive to other birds rubbish bins or leaving out uneaten
(and sometimes small children) and will pet food will encourage more of this
move into other native birds’ nesting learned behaviour.
hollows if the opportunity presents itself.
For more information about living with
They are known to toss out unhatched
Brisbane’s native wildlife and how you
eggs and fledglings. These birds are
can be a good wildlife neighbour, visit
easily identifiable by their bright yellow
beaks and legs, and brown/black bodies.
The Australian noisy miner is less of a
colour show-off but also has an
aggressive, territorial nature.
Cane toads are another introduced species
that, in less than 100 years, have spread
over several states and are still heading
west. These pests upset and destroy
natural ecosystems and cause problems Common myna
for our native frog and reptile populations.
Foxes, wild dogs and feral cats are three
other pests that have been introduced
into Australia. They are Class 2 declared
pests under the Land Protection (Pest
and Stock Route Management) Act 2002.
Between them, these pests kill more
native wildlife than any other invasive
species and are very active within our Noisy miner
urban environments.

Green Gardening Guide 33

Garden care

Garden care
Once you have established your Nitrogen – added by green and fresh
sustainable garden, the next step is to ingredients such as:
know how to care for it through regular  fruit and vegie scraps
maintenance. This section will provide
some information for you to follow.  fresh lawn clippings

A sustainable garden is a winner in  tea leaves/bags, coffee grounds

the maintenance stakes. It is low  manure from grass-eating animals
maintenance because it needs less i.e. horse, cow, sheep, chicken, bird
mowing, less pruning, fewer chemicals
and less watering. This means you will  egg shells.
spend less time maintaining it and Carbon – added by dried and aged
more time enjoying it! ingredients such as:
 dried leaves and brown grass clippings
 scrunched/shredded newspaper
Compost is a complete DIY plant food
and soil conditioner. It is great for soil  paper towels and cardboard
structure, root growth, soil water-holding  small twigs and small sticks
capacity, and helps to increase the
presence of worms and other beneficial  vegie seedlings at the end of
organisms. It turns everything from their season
vacuum cleaner dust to eggshells into  straw
free fertiliser. Most importantly, it diverts
nutrient-rich organic waste back into  vacuum cleaner bag contents.
your garden, rather than into a landfill Oxygen – added by mixing and aerating
site, helping to reduce damaging your compost weekly.
greenhouse gases. Remember: healthy
living soil = healthy plants. Water – added by watering the compost
during construction, and when you notice
it is dry while stirring. Your compost
How to make compost should always be damp, but not wet.
Your compost will be healthiest and For a great guide on how to compost,
most efficient if it’s built using a or to find out about Council’s free
layered method. The four key compost composting and worm farming
ingredients are nitrogen, carbon, workshops, visit Council’s website or call
oxygen and water. In our Brisbane Council on (07) 3403 8888.
climate, a 50% carbon/50% nitrogen
ratio is ideal, with oxygen and water
added as needed.

Green Gardening Guide 35

Caring for your compost Compost tips
Garden care

Proper compost pile maintenance It is handy to keep a separate bin in your

involves occasional turning and adding kitchen for fruit and vegetable scraps
acceptable materials to the pile. Some for your compost heap. The compost
rules to follow are: is ready for garden use when it has
reduced to a dark, fine, earthy-smelling
 Alternate nitrogen-rich materials with
soil-like material, or when you can no
carbon-rich materials, making the
longer recognise any of the materials
layers 5-10 cm deep.
you added. This may take between three
 Sprinkle soil or finished compost to six months depending on the type of
between every few layers. compost bin you use and how often you
turn and mix the contents.
 Add oxygen by turning the pile
regularly (the more you turn it,
the sooner it will be ready to use). GREEN TIP
 Keep moist but not wet. If you cannot compost, try a worm
Avoid adding: farm or offer your vegetable scraps
to your neighbours who have a
 animal meats, fats or products (as this compost bin or chickens.
will attract vermin)
 weeds (all weeds should be avoided
to prevent them resprouting) GREEN TIP
 pet droppings (these should be If your chosen method of
avoided if the finished compost composting is a compost heap or
will be used on a vegetable/fruit compost enclosure, remember to
bearing plant) keep your compost covered and
 twigs thicker than your thumb as these turn regularly to discourage rat and
will take a long time to break down mice infestation.

 rose cuttings to avoid hurting yourself

during harvesting
 seafood

Recycle takeaway coffee cups into
 diseased plants as the disease may
pots for seedlings – Barbara
spread throughout your garden.


Garden care
Nitrogen products
e.g. fruit and vegie scraps
Carbon products
e.g. shredded newspaper, dried leaves

Layer of soil or compost

Coarse material for drainage
and aeration e.g. small twigs

Nitrogen products

Carbon products

Layer of soil or compost

Coarse materials


If you are looking for an easy and Once you start mixing your
simple DIY version of a composter, compost, the layers of carbon and
then a compost tube using a bucket nitrogen will be disturbed. This is
or a piece of poly pipe might be for normal and will help to distribute
you – visit www.offbeathome. the decomposing microorganisms
com/2012/07/worm-tube-composting throughout the pile to continue the
for more information. break-down process.


My whole life has been spent waiting However small your garden, you
for an epiphany, a manifestation must provide for two of the serious
of God's presence, the kind of gardener's necessities, a tool shed
transcendent, magical experience and a compost heap.
that lets you see your place in the big Anne Scott-James
picture. And that is what I had with
my first compost heap. Bette Midler

Green Gardening Guide 37

Marvellous mulch
Garden care

Even if you don’t have a compost heap
Improve your soil by adding organic
or bin, you can still enjoy the marvellous
matter. Your garden worms will
benefits of mulch. Simply spread weed-
break down the nutrients which will
free dry grass clippings, leaves and
improve its texture and structure
shredded prunings on top of the soil
making it great for plant growth.
to a depth of 15 cm for course material
such as leaves and shredded prunings
and only 2.5 cm for fresh grass clippings.
Remember to keep the mulch away from Benefits of mulch
plant stems to avoid collar rot. Mulch can:
 suppress weeds
GREEN TIP  act as a natural slow-release fertiliser
 provide a home for plant-friendly
If you put mulch on too thickly, a
insects and other beneficial organisms
crust may develop and prevent
water penetration. It’s always a  keep up to 70% more water in the soil
good idea to periodically turn over than unmulched soil
your mulch to aerate it and to assist  keep soil temperature stable
with decomposition. For more information on composting or
mulching visit
or call Council on (07) 3403 8888.
Mulch versus no mulch
mulch Mulch layer breaks
environment down to add
Weeds pulled out easily nutrients to soil

Screened light = Evaporation

less germination reduced
of weed seeds

mulch no mulch Roots can be

killed at high

3cm deep
32˚C 42˚C
12cm deep
26˚C 38˚C

Hooray for worms!

Garden care
If you don’t have room for a compost bin,
Remember that compost worms
consider setting up a worm farm. You can
are a different species to garden
either buy one from a hardware store or
worms. Compost worms are surface
supplier, or make your own. Worm farms
dwellers and are one of nature’s
are a great alternative to compost if you
best recyclers. Garden earthworms
live in an apartment or townhouse.
are great at deep burrowing which
Compost worms are great gardeners. helps loosen soil and allows water
They eat all your fruit and vegetable and air down to the roots of plants.
scraps and produce microbe-rich castings
that are full of nutrients for plants. The
liquid castings are a fantastic fertiliser Garden earthworms are just as hard
and can be used instead of commercial working. They munch up organic matter
fertilisers. The liquid should be diluted at creating tunnels for air, water and delicate
a rate of 1:10 (i.e. one part 'worm tea' to roots through the soil as they go. They
10 parts water) to ensure you don’t burn play a very important role in a healthy,
or overfeed your plants. sustainable garden.
For more information about worm farming
and Council’s free worm farming workshops,

Compost worms

Green Gardening Guide 39

Fertilisers If you feel as though you have to use
Garden care

extra fertilisers:
Some forms of fertiliser are often
 confirm why you need them
expensive, require a lot of water and
may not even be necessary. Check any  never allow fertilisers to run into creeks
nutrient deficiency symptoms in foliage or stormwater drains
with your local nursery. Avoid chemical
fertilisers and go organic with your own  follow the manufacturer’s instructions
mulch and compost. carefully

Nitrogen-rich fertilisers cause algal  ensure that you dig the fertiliser in well
blooms and increase weed growth in our to minimise the chance of run-off
waterways. This disturbs the ecological  never fertilise a dry plant. Always ensure
balance for animals and plants that that you have given the pot or garden
live there. Some native plants, such as bed a good deep watering before and
banksias and grevilleas, are sensitive to after applying fertiliser. This will protect
phosphorus so avoid using fertilisers and your plants from fertiliser burn.
greywater on these.

Don’t spray/sprinkle
chemicals on a windy
day or before rain.
Identify the
Don’t over-fertilise
your plants.

Target spray
on pest only.

Space plants
to encourage
air circulation.

Leave grass
clippings on
(reduce lawn area) Use greywater to

Lawn care But as much as we enjoy our own private

Garden care
green space, keeping the lawn at its
Australians love their lawns. There is peak requires regular maintenance. Here
nothing more iconic than a game of are some tips for maintaining your lawn.
backyard cricket with your family and
 Only water when your grass needs it.
neighbours. Lawns give functional,
This will encourage the roots to grow
recreational and aesthetic value to our
deeper so you will water less long
homes and streets.
term. Lawn, unlike many other plants,
A well-maintained lawn adds value to will regenerate after rainfall.
your home by:
 Fertilise sparingly during autumn
 reducing reflective heat produced from and spring or before good rainfall.
hard surfaces, e.g. concrete, pavers Too much fertiliser will result in
excess growth and increased garden
 controlling soil erosion
maintenance. Fertilisers can be washed
 stabilising soils and reducing dust into stormwater drains and into our
local creeks.
 filtering and trapping rain and
water and reducing runoff into  Aerate your lawn with a garden fork
stormwater drains periodically to increase airflow to
the roots, allow for continued water
 complementing your flowering shrubs
penetration and reduce compaction
and trees
from cars and foot traffic.
 producing oxygen and reducing
 Mow your lawn on the highest level
greenhouse gases by absorbing
setting. This will avoid scalping your
carbon dioxide
lawn, minimise evaporation and leave
 providing a safe surface for kids to play your lawn less vulnerable to weed
games and sport infestation.
 changing your perception! View  Wash your car on the lawn. The soap
mowing your lawn as a form of exercise residue will run off onto the lawn and
rather than a chore. not down the stormwater drain.

To get the best out of your watering On hot summer days, lawn
regime, water either first thing in temperatures will be around 10 °C
the morning or in the late evening cooler than bare soil and at least
– Carol 20 °C cooler than pavers or concrete.


Houses are just houses. To make Gardening is learning, learning,
a home, a house needs a garden – learning. That’s the fun of them.
Karen You’re always learning. Helen Mirren

Green Gardening Guide 41

Mowing Pruning
Garden care

How do you rate as a mower? Give Some native plants, such as bottlebrush
yourself a tick if you: and tea tree, benefit from pruning.
It promotes flowering and prevents the
compost or mulch weed-free grass
plant from becoming straggly or woody.
clippings You can keep your pruning chores to a
minimum by choosing plants that grow
have replaced some of your lawn with to a size that suits their location.
gardens and/or vegie patch
Pruning your trees is a good idea to
only cut the top third of the grass reduce their centre of gravity. When
pruning a tree make sure you do not
mow regularly during the summer
cut back the lower limbs as this will make
growing season the tree top heavy. If in doubt contact a
don’t use a catcher on parts of the lawn qualified arborist for advice.
you don’t often visit Always dispose of your prunings by one
use a mulching mower that shreds of the following methods.
clippings finely  Get a green waste recycling bin
from Council.
service your mower regularly and keep
the blades sharp  Buy your own mulcher to shred larger
prunings before placing them in your
are a considerate neighbour, who green waste or compost bin.
only mows and whipper snips between
7am-7pm Monday-Saturday and or after  Separate green waste and general
8am on Sunday waste before going to the Council
transfer station.
water your lawn with greywater from
 Contact a reputable garden waste
your laundry or shower, or have installed removal service that mulches, recycles
a rainwater tank and collects your garden clippings
use an energy-efficient, hand-push and prunings.
mower  If your prunings show signs of disease
or fungus, place them in a black
practice safety in the garden by wearing
plastic bag and dispose of the bag in
a wide-brimmed hat, long-sleeved shirt, your general waste bin. Prunings that
gardening gloves, sunglasses, sturdy contain diseases or fungus are best
shoes and sunscreen. not composted in your compost bin.

 For a small quarterly fee included
Use finely crushed volcanic rock in on your rates notice, Council offers
residents the option of a green waste
your garden as it's cheap and full of
bin. The service is cheap, convenient
minerals – Daniel and is collected fortnightly from your
home. You will be converting your
garden waste to compost rather
than sending it to landfill. For more
information on green waste bin visit or call
Council on (07) 3403 8888.
Garden care
Keep your garden tidy
all year round
Green waste recycling bins are the easy and affordable way
to get your garden into shape and are collected fortnightly
from your home.
Recycling your lawn clippings, prunings and leaves is good for the
environment and ensures that your garden waste is reused as compost and
mulch, helping to create a more sustainable, green and clean city.
To find out more visit
or call Council on (07) 3403 8888.

Green Gardening Guide 43

Garden waste disposal Water sense
Garden care

A big threat to our natural environment is As Australians, we live on the driest

the dumping of rubbish including garden inhabited continent on Earth. Drought and
waste and lawn clippings. excessive rainfall are a periodic reality for
most parts of Australia, including Brisbane,
Garden waste, such as plant prunings,
and we need to be smart about how we
soil and grass clippings can introduce or
use the water available to us, even in the
spread weeds, plant diseases or pests
good times. By following good water
such as fire ants into bushland. Their
management practices we can lessen the
introduction causes competition with
pressure on this precious resource not just
native plants and can destroy habitat.
for today, but for the future.
If native plants suffer, so do the native
birds, animals and insects that need those It has been estimated that up to a third
plants for food and shelter. Green waste of water wasted in the garden is through
can also add fuel to the bush and during inefficient watering practices, e.g. not
the hot dry summer season, increase the mulching, having water-repellent soils and
risk and intensity of bushfire. poor garden design. Here are some tips
to reduce any water wastage.
Dumping rubbish, including garden waste
such as grass clippings and prunings, is  Always check first to see if your plants
illegal and penalties apply. Be responsible need watering. An easy way to test is
and take your garden waste to one of to insert your finger into the dirt and
Council’s four transfer stations or order then remove it to see if the soil on your
a Council green waste bin. finger is wet or dry.
 Use a soil wetting agent to assist
with the soil’s ability to absorb water
more efficiently.
Old potting mix can be added to
 After you have watered, check to see
your compost, turned into your
how far it has penetrated. Ideally, it
garden beds, spread around your
should be to a depth of 10 cm.
vegie patch or reconditioned by
adding and mixing manure and  Group plants with similar watering
aged compost into the potting mix. requirements together.

Roadside or bushland dumping
is illegal and penalties apply. If
you see someone dumping waste
illegally, ‘dob in a dumper’ by
calling Council on (07) 3403 8888.
Write down the registration number,
make and model of the vehicle
as well as the time and place.
For safety reasons, don’t confront
the dumpers.

 Mulch your gardens and pots well. Give yourself a tick if you:

Garden care
Mulch made from recycled organics
use mulch on your pots and gardens

(i.e. sugar cane mulch) is a great water
saving product. group plants together with similar

watering needs
 Think about replacing your lawn with
garden beds or use a more waterwise have a rainwater tank and/or a grey

variety of grass – check with your local water diverter
plant nursery on the best variety for
your area. Lawns are resilient so if your water early in the morning or late in the

lawn goes brown, it will rejuvenate afternoon (in accordance with current
with the next good rainfall. restrictions)

 Water pots and plants on a low- have planted waterwise plants

pressure setting on your hose. This will use a soil penetration water device

allow deep water penetration of your or soil wetting agent to provide deep
plants. Spray settings will only provide watering to your plants
surface watering.
use grey water on your plants (except

 Deep watering is more beneficial
some natives and edible plants)
than frequent surface watering as this
encourages deep root growth. have planted a shade tree to reduce

 Install a rainwater tank.
 Use greywater from your laundry and have reduced the size of your lawn

bathroom. Just remember not to use have less than 50% of your garden area

this water on your edible vegetables planted with lawn.
or phosphorus sensitive natives.
For information on water restrictions that
may be in place, contact the Queensland
Government on 13 74 68.
To ensure that your plants grow strong
and deep roots, heavy and occasional
watering is the best approach. Greywater can contain elevated
Little and often shallow watering levels of sodium, phosphorus
techniques will cause your plants to and contaminants. Avoid using it
produce surface roots and the plants on grevilleas, banksias, azaleas,
will lose their drought tolerance. gardenias or directly on edible crops.

I like gardening – it's a place where Bury your scraps in your garden –
I find myself when I need to lose Lorena (aged 12)
myself. Alice Sebold

Green Gardening Guide 45

What to do to protect your special tree Trees
Garden care

Your garden is a reflection of you and

a specially-planted tree can represent
a significant event in your family (e.g.
child’s birth) or just a statement to your
home. It’s important to look after not
just your special tree but all trees in
your property.
Give it loving care by:
 mulching the critical root zone
(see picture opposite)
 hiring a consulting arborist to
inspect, prune or remove dead
CRITICAL ZONE or dangerous branches from
your trees.

Tree root maintenance

What NOT to do to protect your special tree A tree’s ‘critical root zone’ is the area
directly underneath the canopy
of a mature tree, right down to the
root structure.
All activities in this zone have a direct
impact on the tree and its roots.
Tree health, vigour and stability are
linked to root health. Any damage
to the roots can weaken branches
in the tree’s canopy. Weak roots
mean unstable trees during extreme
weather conditions.
When working in the critical root zone,
 digging
 root cutting or other damage
 filling
 spilling chemicals
 compaction
 vehicular traffic
 paving.

The following are ways to avoid any  Hire a qualified arborist to inspect your

Garden care
problems that roots might cause. trees for dead branches, weak branch
attachments, decay, poor weight
 Plant trees away from structures.
distribution and dangerously-crowded
A guide to how far is available in
branches or root damage.
the 'Plants and planting' section
of this booklet or check with your  Remove any overhanging branches
local plant nursery. near your home and clear your yard
of loose materials and rubbish.
 Repair faulty stormwater and
sewer pipes.
 Choose small-to-medium trees.
Always be storm and fire smart
For more information on preparing for
Brisbane's severe weather season visit
Preparing for fire/storm
season On this website you can also register to
Brisbane’s sub-tropical climate means our receive severe weather alerts via email,
city is prone to severe weather events SMS or recorded phone message, through
like storms and bushfires. To lessen the Brisbane Early Warning Alert Service.
potential for damage it is best that
You can also stay up-to-date through
you prepare your home early for the
Council's Facebook and Twitter social
summer season.
media channels.
Here are some simple steps to protect
your property.
Safety in the garden
Before fire season As much as we enjoy being in the garden,
we always should be mindful of good
 Clean out roof guttering. Leaf litter safety practices.
can accumulate in your house gutters
 Don’t leave garden tools, hoses,
which may ignite from flying embers
watering cans or other solid objects
during bushfires. These embers can
lying about for people to trip over.
travel many kilometres on the wind.
Use gutter guards to prevent leaf  Always store rakes, hoes, spades, forks,
build up. secateurs and shears out of the reach
of children.
 Create a barrier/fire break between
bushland and your home.  Always be careful when handling
organic mulch, compost and fertilisers.
 Ensure that you have an easily-
Use gloves and a mask to ensure you
accessible and fire-safe escape road
don't inhale any microorganisms.
route should you need to leave.

Before storm season GREEN TIP

 Check and repair any loose roofing tiles Ensure you read and understand the
or sheets. Check and clean downpipes, label before you purchase a product
guttering and drains to ensure water and follow the use, dosage and
drains away quickly. Use gutter guards safety requirements as stated.
to prevent leaf build up.

Green Gardening Guide 47

 If you are injured while working in the  When working in the garden on hot
Garden care

garden, apply appropriate first aid and days, always ensure that you have
seek medical attention. plenty of cool water to drink and take
regular breaks out of the sun.
 Always be aware of possibly finding
rusty nails or other dangerous objects Always practice the following when
when you’re digging in the garden. handling fertilisers and chemicals.
 Always mow wearing covered shoes,  Always read, understand and follow
a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen. the directions on the label.
 Always wash your hands with soap and  Ensure you understand the rate of
water after working in the garden, even application and wear gloves.
if you have worn gloves.
 Store chemicals and fertilisers out of
 When moving pot plants, always bend reach of children.
your knees when you lift the item or
 Don’t spray on windy days or when the
use an upright trolley for large pots as
temperature is over 30 ºC.
using your back can cause injury.
 Dispose of chemical containers using
manufacturer’s requirements.
If you are having some problems with
Remember to practice ‘sun safety’ garden pests please consider using
whenever you are in the garden organic alternatives that have a minimal
and always wear a hat, long sleeves, environmental impact. More information
covered sturdy shoes, sunglasses is in the ‘Bringing biodiversity into your
and sunscreen. backyard’ section in this guide.

Tips for an environmentally-

friendly garden
 Spray plants with natural insect controls
such as garlic spray, white oil or
dishwashing detergent (see residents’
tried and true recipes on the next page).
 Encourage visits by birds and other
helpful animals by providing suitable
 Get Mother Nature on side with
companion planting and by choosing
plants that attract insect predators
(such as ladybeetles) or release natural
pest deterrents (such as marigolds).

 Prevention is best. Keep plants healthy,

Garden care
weed free and disease resistant. WILDLIFE TIP
Select plants less susceptible to insect
The brush-turkey is a protected native
 Use natural pesticides such as bird and they play an important role in
pyrethrum spray and derris dust. natural pest management. However,
However, use them sparingly as they during the mating season (August to
too can cause environmental harm. December) they can disrupt gardens
by raking mulch into nesting mounds.
 To reduce fungal problems remove old
To learn how to live with your turkey
leaves, avoid watering leaf surfaces and
visitors during this season,
keep mulch from base of stem.

Residents' tried and true sustainable
garden remedies:
Garden nasties
Invasive plants
To deter white Boil lettuce leaves
cabbage moth and use the water on Many attractive garden plants have a
cabbages, cauliflower, secret life as weeds in our bushland.
brussel sprouts There are more than 200 backyard
For sooty mould Add 1tsp cooking oil beauties that become bushland bullies
+ 1tsp detergent + when they jump the garden fence. Once
500ml water – spray on there, they smother and kill native plants,
To deter/kill Mix 3 cloves garlic + removing food and shelter for our wildlife.
aphids, slugs, squirt of washing up
Invasive plants are the main threat to
beetles liquid + 500ml water
biodiversity in our natural areas and they
and spray on
represent the second biggest threat to
Black spot on Mix 1tsp sunflower
biodiversity after vegetation clearing.
roses oil + 2tsp bicarb soda
Council spends over $5 million each year
+ 1 drop washing
detergent + 1 litre
on weed management in our natural
water – spray on areas, parks and waterways and 85% of
Fire ant
the species treated are garden escapees.
So we are all really important partners
in helping to reduce weeds by buying
non-invasive species from a reputable
nursery, removing invasive weeds from
our gardens and not dumping garden
waste in the bush.
Council has an online weed identification
tool and videos of the seven most
common weed control methods to
help you identify and control weeds.

Green Gardening Guide 49

To locate this useful tool, find more
Mosquitoes and midgies
Garden care

information or share your knowledge

about weeds, visit Mosquitoes and midgies can turn a great afternoon BBQ or picnic into an
Here you can view information on unpleasant event. Mozzies can also carry
common weeds and recommended debilitating diseases such as malaria and
control techniques. Ross River Fever. As mosquito larvae can
only survive in standing water, help protect
You can also join your local Habitat yourself and your garden from mosquitoes
Brisbane group and help remove weeds and midgies, by following the tips below.
from Brisbane's bushland.
 Regularly check for mosquito larvae
(wrigglers) and empty any still water
Myrtle rust from containers, including plant
Myrtle rust is a serious fungal disease saucers, tyres and tyre swings, buckets,
and it affects plants in the myrtaceae bird baths and pet bowls. Replace with
family which includes Australian natives, fresh clean water where necessary.
eucalyptus, melaleuca and callistemon.  Keep roof gutters clear from
It originated in South America and has built-up leaf litter to prevent rain water
the potential to be devastating to the collecting.
plants in this family. Myrtle rust is easily
spread via spores which may be carried  Wear long-sleeved, light-coloured and
on any infected plants, clothing, insects, loose-fitting clothing if you are outside
at dusk and dawn.
animals, machinery equipment and
airborne dispersal.  Use natural repellents such as
citronella, mosquito coils and lanterns.
If you suspect myrtle rust on your
property, please notify Biosecurity  If you have a water feature in your
Queensland on 132 523 or call the Exotic garden, ensure that you cycle the
Plant Pest Hotline on 1800 084 881. water regularly.
For more information on myrtle rust
please visit
Rainwater tanks and
mosquito prevention
Mosquitoes breed if they get inside a tank
or systems where water does not drain
from pipes, gutters and plumbing.
You can stop mosquitoes breeding in
your rainwater tank by:
• ensuring there is no debris in the tank
• installing a gutter design that does not
allow water to pool
Myrtle rust
• ensuring water does not pool on the
tank lid
• sealing all entry routes to the tank
including the inlet and overflow pipes
with mosquito-proof screens.
Garden care
Termites (white ants) can cause Put sand in the saucers of pot
thousands of dollars worth of plants – it keeps the mozzies away –
damage to homes in a relatively Michael
short period of time. To prevent any
problems, always ensure that:
• you don’t have garden beds GREEN TIP
against your home
If you think you have fire ants or
• keep weep holes clear
yellow crazy ants, immediately
• keep any pieces of timber away phone the Department Agriculture,
from your home and up off Fisheries and Forestry on 132 523.
the ground For more information please visit
• replace any leaking garden taps
• contact a qualified pest manager
at least once a year to carry out a
termite inspection of your home.
Details can be found in the yellow
pages under ‘pest control’.

Fire ants/yellow crazy ants

Fire ants have a very painful sting (it feels
like a burning match is held against the
skin) and have a very negative impact
on biodiversity. Other ants that may
cause problems around the home include Fire ant
green-head ants, meat ants, sugar ants
and funnel ants.
Fire ants were discovered in South East
Queensland in 2001 and even though
many have been eradicated, there is
always a risk of finding them in plant soil,
mulch and potting mix. If you buy these,
ask your garden supplier to certify that
they are free of fire ants.
Yellow crazy ants were discovered in
Brisbane in 2004. They don’t sting but
spray formic acid that irritates the skin Yellow crazy ant
and eyes of people and pets.

Green Gardening Guide 51

Growing your own

Growing your own

In this section we’ll look at the
benefits and the easy way of
growing some of your own fresh
produce and the benefits of keeping
backyard chickens.
There is a great sense of satisfaction in
eating and sharing home-grown fruit
and vegetables. Not only is the food you
grow fresh from the garden, you know
exactly what has gone into the production
of it. In addition, you can become a little
less dependant on supermarket fruits
and vegetables.
Supplement versus
RESIDENT'S TIP Self-sufficiency means growing enough
food to take care of all your food
Teach your children early how to needs. While being a great initiative,
garden, and to enjoy weeding – Lisa this is not realistic for most people with
small gardens and busy lives. However,
supplementing the fruit and vegies you
Growing your own food also means that
purchase with even a little of your own
you reduce your ‘food miles’. On many
will make a difference to the environment.
occasions, the produce is picked and
Sharing surplus produce and talking to
packed months before you take it home
others about their gardening successes
and many fruit and vegetables lose
and challenges also provides you with the
some of their valuable nutrients during
opportunity to be part of a wider network
the storage and transportation phase.
of people with similar interests and ideas.
Transporting foods over long distances
can also create more greenhouse gases.
While we can’t grow all our food at 
home, the next best thing is buying local
Replace some lawn with a vegie or
and seasonal produce that takes less
herb patch.
energy and fewer chemical applications
to produce.

Green Gardening Guide 53

Growing your own

Small is good GREEN TIP

Growing even a small amount of your own GROWING A MEAL IN A POT
food can make a difference to your budget
Eggplants with shallots or chives
and to your environment, and the good
and basil.
news is that you don’t need to have a big
garden to grow food. In fact, you can grow In winter, grow coriander with lettuce, and
food in a small, bright spot on a balcony in chillies do well with a selection of Thai
pots, on a sunny window sill or in hanging vegies such as bok choy and pak choy.
baskets. Creeping or climbing herbs, fruits Combine a selection of lettuce
and vegetables such as mint, strawberries varieties together with baby beetroot
and oregano do well in hanging baskets. and baby spinach for a great salad mix.
The more upright herbs like parsley
and basil, and vegetables like, spinach,
asian and salad greens combine well as
companion plants in pots.
Edible flowers are also a great mix in
Growing food plants up trellised walls
a green salad or fruit salad. Flowers
(passionfruit, tomatoes and snowpeas) or
such as marigolds, nasturtiums,
cascading over a balcony stacked in pots
violets, calendula petals, rose petals
(herbs, lettuce) or well-drained old plastic
and zucchini flowers are all great
containers (potatoes) maximises the use
floral additions.
of what might seem like a very small space.

I grow strawberries in my old Plant seeds in your garden and grow
gumboots – Charlotte (aged five) food – Molly (aged seven)

No-dig gardening Children participating in

Growing your own

No-dig gardens have to be the easiest way growing, harvesting and
to grow fresh home-grown vegetables as
these are built above the ground, unlike
the traditional digging up of soil to make Encouraging children to grow food will
an in-ground garden bed. These gardens help a new generation learn more about
are easy to assemble and disassemble, and where food comes from, its importance,
best of all, better on your back and knees. sustainability and the environment, all while
having fun. All you need is a pot, good
There are many commercial non-organic
quality potting mix, a sunny spot, some
versions (e.g. durable steel) available in
radish or bean seeds and water and the
different shapes, sizes and colours or you
next generation of gardeners can watch
could choose to make your own from
a tiny seed grow into something they can
untreated hardwood sleepers. They work
eat in just a few short weeks.
well as a permanent fixture of if you’re a
renter, they can be dismantled and moved Growing food plants at home is something
when you do. that children and adults can do together
and an activity that entices even the fussiest
To learn more, visit your local Council
eater to try something new. Snow peas,
library and borrow some reference books
baby carrots, radishes and tiny tomatoes
on no-dig gardens or visit:
are among the easiest vegetables for or children to grow. It is also a great way for children to learn some basic cooking skills
once the vegetables are picked.
Growing healthy food isn’t all about
compost, water and mulch. By Always use hardwood if you’re
preparing your vegetables in a safe building raised garden beds. Good
way, you will protect yourself from any options include red gum and cyprus,
cross contamination. as these are safe and are from a
• Thoroughly wash all dirt from sustainable source. Avoid using
produce prior to storage and eating. treated pine as the chemicals used
to treat the wood are toxic and may
• Remove outer leaves of greens,
leach into the soil in your garden bed.
especially from the bottom of plants
(ie lettuce).
• If you are unsure of the history of
your soils, peel all root vegetables
which have been in direct contact If you are after a quick and easy
with the soil. no-dig vegie bed then use a lucerne
• In the kitchen, use one cutting or hay bale. You can either use the
board for raw meats and another for bales as a perimeter for a larger style
vegetables/fruit. garden bed or plant directly into
the bale. There's lots of information
• Always wash hands before preparing
on the web or you could visit a local
and eating food.
city farm or community garden for
more information.

Green Gardening Guide 55

Fruit trees versus
Growing your own

shade trees
Save your seeds or share them
Living in larger houses or on small blocks with others. Brisbane’s local seed
of land has forced many of us to choose networks are groups of people who
between planting shade or a fruiting tree. enjoy swapping seeds and cuttings.
Often shade wins out in this hot climate. For more information visit
However you can have both. to find what
Choosing dwarf fruiting trees allows you groups are in your local area.
to have the best of both shade and fruit.
A tree such as Davidson’s plum is ideal
for narrow space and a dwarf mulberry
provides shade and the white fruit does
Organics and similar
not stain. To be considered truly organic, fruit or
vegetables must have been grown in an
Many of our favourite fruiting trees are
area free from synthetic chemical fertilisers,
now available in dwarf and multi-grafted
varieties so there will be something to fungicides, herbicides and pesticides and
suit your needs and tastes. These smaller free from genetically modified organisms
trees are grown especially to allow easy for three years. A minimum three year
harvesting of the fruit and will grow happily period is needed to cleanse a site of most
in the ground or in a large tub, so are non-organic products.
suitable for pergola or balcony growing. Organic gardening does not mean that
Check out your local nursery or visit your you can’t use anything. There are many
local Council library for more information products that are ok to use to deter pests
on fruiting trees suited to your conditions. or kill diseases, but it is recommended
that they are used sparingly. Even organic
products can harm beneficial insects and
 other organisms. Organic gardening
Plant seeds you have collected also means using covers to protect
into toilet rolls and plant into the your produce or companion planting
ground. The paper breaks down methods which mix with other plants in
and holds moisture – Jan the vegetable garden to confuse pests
or attract animals that will eat the pests.
There is lots of information out there on
RESIDENT'S TIP organic gardening. Visit your local Council
library and discover what’s available or log
Snails love beer, so put some in
onto some of the websites listed at the
shallow containers and place where
back of this booklet.
they congregate and goodbye
snails, Kaput! – Colleen Chemicals suitable for organic gardens
can be found on the Australian Organic
For the best freshness, look for
foods that are grown locally and
are in season.

Crop rotation Gardening in Brisbane’s

Growing your own

What is crop rotation? Crop rotation is urban soils
a basic principle designed to minimise
Since Brisbane was settled, the
pests and diseases, lessen the use of
landscape and environment has been
chemicals and maintain a healthy soil by
altered due to development that has
alternating the planting of the same crop
occurred. Over this time, some products
variety repeatedly.
may have found their way into soils and
When practicing crop rotation, it is could pose risks to people.
important to familiarise yourself with plant
Common contaminants that may be found in
family names. This will ensure that the
urban soil may occur in properties that were
same family of plants are not planted in
developed before 1980 (when lead paint was
the same spot year after year.
phased out), or located adjacent to heavily
The following are benefits of crop rotation. trafficked roads prior to 2002 (when lead in
petrol was phased out), or developed on or
 Reducing the potential for pests
near previous industrial activities.
and diseases to remain in the soil by
removing the host and breaking Not all urban soils will be affected, but as
its lifecycle. gardeners we need to be aware of our soil
 Maintaining a balance of nutrients in and its history and by taking some simple
the soil as some crops will draw more steps, you can still safely and confidently
of one kind of nutrient (i.e. nitrogen) garden. There are several actions that you
from the soil than other crops. can take.

 Maintaining your soil pH and  Do not dig into or disturb affected soils.
nutrient levels which will help all your Build raised garden beds or garden in
vegetables get the most from the soil. containers.

 Improving soil structure by alternating  Cover walkways and other areas of

the planting of shallow-rooted exposed soil with mulch, grass, paving
vegetables (i.e. spinach, lettuce) or other groundcover to reduce dust
with deep-rooted vegetables migration onto plants. Reduce dust by
(i.e. carrots and potatoes). wetting the soil and equipment before
working in the garden.
For more information on crop rotation and
its benefits, please visit www.sgaonline.  Locate food gardens away from painted or contact a Council-supported city buildings that were constructed prior to
farm or community garden. the 1980s.
Be mindful that root crops such as carrots,
GREEN TIP onions and potatoes are least appropriate to
be grown in urban soils as they are in direct
Propagate your seedlings in egg contact with the soil. Fruiting plants such as
cartons. Once your seedlings are tomatoes, capsicums, apples and cucumbers
big enough (in accordance with the are safer. As an alternative, plant non-edible
instructions on the seed pack) you plants in your garden to provide colour
will be able to plant them out in the or shade to your garden or join your local
garden, egg carton and all. The egg community garden.
carton will break down in the soil and
provide compost for your plants.

Green Gardening Guide 57

Love your chooks Native bees – get the buzz
Growing your own

Keeping chickens in the backyard is a fun If you’d like to take ‘growing your own’ a
and interactive pastime for all the family. step further, have you considered keeping
Kids learn so much about the cycle of life a hive of Australian native stingless
when chickens are a part of the family. bees? These can be a great addition to
your backyard, whether you’re an avid
Chickens can fulfil many eco-friendly roles
gardener or just someone who loves to
in your garden. Apart from providing tasty
have unusual wildlife visiting your garden.
eggs, free-range chickens can control
insects and weeds and eat your leftover There are more than 1500 different
vegie scraps. They are also great at species of native bees in Australia, but
keeping your soil healthy by scratching the stingless species are mainly found in
and foraging for insects and also the north and eastern areas. Tetragonula
providing great fertiliser for your garden. carbonaria (previously known as Trigona
carbonaria) is one of the stingless species
If you are concerned about the history or
that live in South East Queensland.
quality of your soil:
Native bees will assist with the pollination
 ensure chickens do not have access
of the plants in your garden. They produce
to bare soil. Restrict their free ranging
a unique flavoured honey, ready for you to
foraging areas
spread on your toast at breakfast.
 chickens require access to a dust bath.
Like commercial honey bees, native
Provide a large shallow pan (such
bees live within a highly ordered social
as a children’s pool) filled with loose
structure but because they are stingless
clean soil, sand, hardwood ashes or a
they are much easier to handle even for
combination of all.
the novice beekeeper.
To learn more, visit your local Council
For more information on keeping the
library and borrow some reference books
Aussie bee buzzing visit:
on keeping chickens in urban backyards,
or visit:

Native blue-banded bee

Growing your own

Green Gardening Guide 59

More green information
More green information

Want to know more? Free native plants

How can you get involved? As a Brisbane ratepayer you are entitled

N2010-02695 © Brisbane City Council

to two free native plants each year.

Council has many initiatives and programs Native plants in your garden:
– provide shade and cool your home

dedicated to creating a clean, green – improve habitat for native wildlife

– reduce water use and require less maintenance.

and biodiverse city. You will find some

For more information on these plants please ask at the
nursery counter or phone Council on (07) 3403 8888.

information on many of these in the next That’s why I’m greening Brisbane. The Free Native Plants program is another way Council is achieving our shared vision for a cleaner, greener Brisbane.

few pages.
Grant programs
Green Heart program Council’s grants programs provide
Council holds a series of Green Heart funding to help local non-profit
events throughout Brisbane. These community groups and individuals to
events are a great way to learn more develop and improve facilities and
about living sustainably and there’s services in Brisbane. Some of the grants
something for everyone – gardening available include, Cultivating Community
talks, displays, demonstrations and free Gardens Grants, Native Wildlife Carer
activities for all ages. Grants, Sustainability Grants
and Environmental Grants. Visit
Visit for more
to find out how Green Heart can help information on Council’s grant programs.
residents, schools, businesses and
community groups take practical steps
to reduce their environmental footprint. Community street tree
Here you can find out about our annual planting events
calendar of Green Heart events and
register to receive regular information and Council conducts tree planting events in
support for living sustainably. many suburban streets each year. If you
are interested in taking part in greening
your street, the schedule can be found
Free Native Plants program at or phone
Schools and community groups can apply Council on (07) 3403 8888.
to Council for up to 50 specially-selected
free native plants from July each year.
Ratepayers are entitled to two free
native plants each year. The selection
includes a range of native plants such
as trees, shrubs, groundcovers, climbers
and grasses.

Council’s library Community gardens are a place where

More green information

local people of all ages and cultures can
sustainability seminars come together to grow fresh produce,
These free, fun and hands-on seminars learn, relax and make new friends. It really
are held throughout the year at several is a place where the community comes
Council libraries. So come along to a together for a common goal. City Farms
sustainable living seminar and find out are on a much larger scale and provide
how you can lead a more sustainable enhanced learning experiences by
lifestyle and help create a better Brisbane conducting accredited horticultural and
for now and into the future. Bookings are permaculture education courses.
essential. To find out more or to make a If you would like to get involved in one of
booking call Council on (07) 3403 8888. Brisbane’s popular community gardens
visit to find a
Community gardens and community garden near you. Experienced
and novice gardeners from all ages
city farms and cultures are welcome. Brisbane
There are many community gardens City Council supports and is part of the
and a few city farms across Brisbane, growing network of community gardens
in parks, community centres, schools across Australia.
and on private land such as churches. More information can be found at:

Green Gardening Guide 61

Council's Green Commitment programs that encourage and assist
More green information

landholders to provide habitat for wildlife

Council is committed to increasing on their properties. Land for Wildlife,
natural habitat cover across the city to Voluntary Conservation Agreement (VCA)
40% by 2031 which will ensure the long- and Voluntary Conservation Covenants
term survival of Brisbane’s unique flora (VCC) are the initiatives offered through
and fauna. this program.
If you are interested in joining one of the
Habitat Brisbane and many Habitat Brisbane or Catchment
Creek Catchment groups Groups or own land you would like to
register within the Land for Wildlife
Each year many dedicated residents get program, visit
involved in voluntary habitat restoration Groups are always pleased to welcome
projects to improve their local natural new participants.
environment. These Habitat Brisbane
groups focus on restoring areas in parks,
remnant bushland, wetlands and along Brisbane Botanic Gardens,
Brisbane waterways. Mt Coot-tha
Most people associate the word The 52-hectare Brisbane Botanic Gardens,
‘catchment' with dams, but every creek, Mt Coot-tha is Queensland’s premier
stream and river has its own catchment. subtropical botanic gardens. There is
We all live in a catchment and can plenty to do at the gardens including free
influence the quality of the waterways guided walks, school groups can participate
and ultimately Moreton Bay. The Creek in Lessons in the Gardens, or visit the
Catchment Program works with catchment Herbarium and the Planetarium. Keep an
groups to protect and restore catchments eye out for opportunities to visit special
through improved awareness of catchment plant exhibitions that are on throughout
issues in the wider community the year. While you are visiting the gardens
make sure you take the time to see our
Wildlife Conservation beautiful Australian natives at the Native
Plants for Brisbane garden display.
Partnership program
Over 50% of Brisbane’s natural City Botanic Gardens
environment is contained within private
ownership. The Wildlife Conservation The City Botanic Gardens beside the
Partnership program offers voluntary Brisbane River was established in 1828 to
provide food for the early penal colony.
The garden’s plant collections include
the first Queensland native plants to
be formally planted and exotic plants
imported in colonial days to establish
crops for the new Brisbane colony.
Take a free walking tour with volunteer
guides and discover the many changes
these gardens have seen over the past
150 years.

Boondall Wetlands Arbor Day

More green information

Environment Centre To celebrate Arbor Day each October,
Brisbane schools are entitled to an
The Boondall Wetlands are Brisbane’s
additional allocation of up to 50 free
largest wetlands, located on the edge of
plants to beautify their school grounds.
Moreton Bay between Nudgee Beach,
Boondall and Shorncliffe. Brisbane schools have been celebrating
this traditional tree planting day since
Visit to discover
1890. This is a great way for students,
more about the wetlands including track
parents and teachers to make an
maps for you to download and a printable
environmental difference at their school
checklist for birds of Boondall Wetlands.
for today and into the future.

Downfall Creek Bushland Natural Assets Local Law

Centre (NALL)
The Downfall Creek Bushland Centre
Council’s Natural Assets Local Law 2003
is located within Raven Street Reserve,
helps to protect our natural assets,
which is part of the 120-hectare
including bushland areas, wetlands, water
Chermside Hills Reserves. Visit
corridors and trees in urban environments. for opening
Council made amendments to the NALL
hours and things to see and do.
in 2014 to assist residents and businesses
to either nominate for or manage
2 Million Trees – protected vegetation on or adjacent to
Our Urban Forest project their properties. The changes simplify and
streamline processes and in some cases
The 2 Million Trees project started in reduce costs and time for owners of land
November 2007 with the aim of restoring with protected vegetation.
bushland, developing wildlife corridors,
This law may affect you if you own land or
providing shade to cool the city and to
occupy land:
keep Brisbane looking green.
 near a river or waterway
The 2 millionth tree was planted in
February 2012, on one of over 78 project  in a bushland area
sites covering almost 500 hectares of land
in the Brisbane area.  in an emerging community (future urban
land) with large trees
The planted trees will provide shelter,
nesting sites and food for many  with a Council street tree on the
types of wildlife, and will continue footpath.
to improve and enhance the city's
unique biodiversity and create an
environmental legacy that contributes
to a cleaner and greener Brisbane.

Green Gardening Guide 63

Native Wildlife Ambulance Service
More green information

Council offers this service to rescue and rehabilitate native wildlife across Brisbane City.
To report a sick, injured or orphaned native animal please phone Council on
(07) 3403 8888, 24 hours a day.

Green web sites

ABC Gardening Australia –
Australian Institute of Horticulture –
Sustainable Gardening Australia –
Department of Energy and Water Supply –
Queensland Arboricultural Association –
Biosecurity Queensland (Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry) –
Weeds Australia –
Department of Environment and Heritage Protection –
Society for Growing Australian Plants –
Greening Australia –
Healthy Waterways –
Australian Subtropical Gardening –
Brisbane Organic Growers Inc. –
Successful gardening with Annette McFarlane –
Save Our Waterways Now –
Flora for Fauna –
Queensland Herbarium –
Queensland Poisons Information Centre –

References and recommended reading

More green information

Allen, J. 2002, Paradise in your garden: smart permaculture design, New Holland, NSW.
Cherikoff, V. 1997, The bushfood handbook: how to gather, grow, process & cook
Australian wild foods, Bush Tucker Supply, NSW.
Cochran, T & Passmore, N. 2003, The Garden Gurus guide to waterwise gardening,
Garden Gurus, WA.
Hirschfeld, J. 1991, What to Plant and Where in Brisbane and the Coasts, 2nd edn,
Albion Press, Qld.
Marshall, T. 2003, Recycle your Garden – the essential guide to composting,
ABC Books, NSW.
Nicholson, N. & H., 1985-1994, Australian Rainforest Plants, vol.1-4, Terania Rainforest
Publishing, The Channon, NSW.
Oakman, H. 1995, Harry Oakman’s What Flowers When, University of Qld Press, Qld.
Queensland Museum 2005, Wild Plants of Greater Brisbane, Queensland Museum, Qld.
Wrigley, J. W. and Fagg, M. 1996, Australian Native Plants – propagation, cultivation and
use in landscaping, 4th edn, Reed Books, Melbourne.

Acknowledgements Photographic credits

Sustainable Gardening Australia † Images courtesy of the Queensland Museum ©
# Image courtesy of Geoff Pegg,
Department of Employment,
Economic Development & Innovation

Green Gardening Guide 65

More green information

Cooling the planet starts in your backyard.

Growing your own food and purchasing in-season produce from local suppliers is a
great way to reduce your environmental footprint.
When you see the 'I Green Heart BNE' symbol you know that it involves advice or a
Council initiative to help create a sustainable, green and clean Brisbane.
To show your love for Brisbane and find more tips on living sustainably visit

That's why I'm growing

a greener Brisbane.

Gardening calendar monthly tips
• Fertilise all garden beds. This is optimum • Do not forget to fertilise winter growing
growth time. vegetables.
• Water the garden in the morning or • Make some garden beds or do repairs
evenings while it is cool. Soils will retain while the plant growth cycle is at its
more moisture at this time. slowest.

• Mulch all garden beds to conserve • Check your lawn for weeds. Control with
precious moisture. It is best to use organic spray.
organic material like old manure, lucerne • Turn your garden beds over to aerate
hay or cane trash. Fallen leaves are also before you re-mulch.
a good mulch.
• Spread organic mulch over all
• Autumn is a good time of the year for garden beds.
planting trees and shrubs. They have time
• Gain inspiration by visiting open gardens
to establish in the warmer, moist soils
in your area.
before the cooler weather comes.

• Feed your potted plants for summer
• Feed lawns to keep them going over the
flowering and fruiting.
winter months.
• Plant capsicum, French beans, garlic, leeks, • Start to prepare for storm/fire season.
onions, potatoes, silverbeet, spinach.
• Feed your roses.
• Fertilise all your plants in the garden.
MAY • Plant pumpkin, rockmelon and
• When mowing, cut the lawn on the watermelon.
highest setting. It will cope better with
the cooler conditions.
• As weather cools reduce the watering • Plant basil at the same time as tomatoes.
of your indoor plants. They make great companion plants.
• Put your feet up and enjoy your garden
JUNE after a years work.
• Plant winter vegetables, like beetroot,
broccoli, cabbage, capsicum, potatoes,
silverbeet, spinach.
• Fertilise your citrus, passionfruit,
native plants.

List here anything new that you have learnt or practices that you will continue to follow.

Happy gardening!
Brisbane City Printed on recycled paper For more information visit
Council Information
GPO Box 1434 or call (07) 3403 8888
Brisbane Qld 4001
© Brisbane City Council 2014 @brisbanecityqld